Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Lunch with Seb

His Excellency the President of the Republic did not request the honour of my company for lunch yesterday.

Apparently I was among the few people in Chile who was not invited.

OK, maybe not Chile. Santiago.

Maybe not Santiago, but Academia.

OK. Maybe not Academia, but Political Science.

OK. Maybe there were a few economists there too.

In any event, it was an interesting signal. The president and some top policy advisers inviting what passes for the Best and the Brightest to chit chat. It is notable for several reasons: for the fact that the president values the opinions of academics (and political scientists to boot!), for the fact that he smoked, for the ideological diversity of those at the table, and for the lack of diversity of those at the table. They were almost all men, almost all of the same generation, and almost all academics who have some sort of public profile, columnists, etc.

In other words, and as Patricio Navia noted, the views expressed were not necessarily much different from those Piñera could obtain in the newspapers on any given Sunday.

So what was the point of it all? Does the president want to be seen as an equal, that he can hold his own amongst academics (as well as among CEOs and presidents)? Does he want to be seen as ideologically open? Does he wish to turn the Moneda into a kind of Chilean Camelot?

It is an intriguing notion.

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